Clean eating is the wellness trend that just keeps going, and while we love avo on toast or the odd cauliflower pizza as much as the next girl, could these clean foods actually be doing more harm than good?
Some of our favourite healthy ingredients – including avocado, sweet potato, coconut, and cauliflower – belong to a group of short-chain carbohydrates called FODMAPs, which can cause serious digestive issues and exacerbate IBS in those who are sensitive. Nutritional therapist and SL contributor Jodie Brandman delved deeper…
What are FODMAPs?
FODMAP stands for Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols – it’s essentially a group of foods that are easily fermented by gut bacteria and poorly absorbed in the gut, so eating them can cause gas, pain, diarrhoea and other symptoms of IBS in those who are particularly sensitive.
Which foods are high FODMAP?
High FODMAP foods are the ones that produce the most fermentation, and can cause intestinal discomfort and bowel issues. For a full list visit IBSDiets.org, but removing the following foods may help decrease symptoms:
- Lactose (in milk and dairy)
- Beans and legumes (yes, that means hummus)
- Some vegetables including beetroot, artichoke, asparagus, leeks, celery, mushrooms
- Sauerkraut & fermented foods
- Alcohol (especially beer and wine)
- Almonds, cashews, hazelnuts and pistachios
What causes FODMAP intolerance?
FODMAPs don’t cause IBS but can aggravate it, so it’s important to get to the bottom of why these foods may be causing trouble before beginning to treat symptoms.
One of the most common reasons is a condition called SIBO – Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. Whilst we all have bacteria in our colon, our small intestines are kept relatively clear, however, sometimes the bacteria can migrate (as a result of stress, diabetes, coeliac disease, ageing, or as a side effect of medication) and lead to a whole host of issues. If you suffer from SIBO you could experience iron and B12 deficiencies, IBS symptoms and damage to the stomach lining. Symptoms of SIBO can include: bloating; nausea and vomiting; fatigue; skin issues like rashes, acne, rosacea and eczema; weight loss; anemia; and depression and anxiety. FODMAPs can feed this bacterial overgrowth and possibly explain why you can feel unwell on what’s apparently a healthy diet.
If you do avoid FODMAPs, what can you eat?
Rest assured, you can still enjoy your overnight oats, chia puddings, quinoa sushi, and berry smoothie bowls with cacao nibs. If you are encouraged to follow a FODMAP-free diet (make sure you work with a nutritional therapist), you can still eat:
- Oats, quinoa, buckwheat
- Pecans, flax, hemp, chia and most other seeds
- Coconut oil
- Almond milk
- Berries and bananas
- Meat, fish and eggs
- Most greens and salad ingredients (except celery)
Whilst eating lower FODMAP foods can starve the bacteria in the small intestine, sometimes, in order to treat underlying conditions, herbal antimicrobials may be necessary, so working with a practitioner is highly recommended.
Remember this isn’t a diet that is recommended long-term, as it may also starve the beneficial bacteria in the large intestine, which is needed to keep us healthy, so monitor your progress and try to reintroduce foods after a couple of months. And don’t panic about what you can and can’t eat, work with a professional to design a tailored plan.
For more information, visit IBSDiets.org